A village in west-central Alberta, about 88 kilometres west of Edmonton, has a unique community tradition.
Every summer the small village of Evansburg selects a resident grouch to pester, complain and grumble at others.
Nominations for this year’s grouch were due last Thursday, and when no one stepped up for the position, the village put out a call.
Margaret Hodgkinson became the grouch in 2012.
“You can go around and growl at people, as long as you don’t swear at anybody,” she told CBC’s Edmonton AM.
She said she considered the position an honour and a privilege, because she became an ambassador for the community. As part of her duties, she represented Evansburg at trade shows and other events across the country.
This isn’t the first time Evansburg struggled with finding a grouch. There were only two nominees the year Hodgkinson ran.
“I think, secretly, people want to be approached, but nobody wants to say ‘I’m grouchy,'” she said.
Population plus one grouch
The tradition of electing a grouch stems from when artist and local resident John Lauer was asked to paint a village welcome sign in 1974.
Lauer didn’t know how to fill the extra space on the sign and considered adding the village population numbers below. He counted the people (603), the dogs (29) and — after walking up and down the streets — the cats (about 40).
Still, Lauer felt something was missing. He impulsively added “plus one Grouch” to the sign.
Speculation arose about who the grouch was and the community decided to settle the debate with an election.
“It’s been a tradition since the 70s in August where we just celebrate our community and the people in it,” said Melissa Killick manager of the Tipple Park Museum.
In the 90s a new slogan was adopted: “Home of the Grouch.”
“Hopefully, any visitor to our village, upon encountering any local who was being less than congenial, would be more easily able to forgive such behaviour … assuming this person to be our one admitted Grouch,” it says on the Evansburg Entwistle Chamber of Commerce website.
Since its inception, the grouch has been characterized, adopted and even copyrighted. The grouch receives an official grouch certificate, and an honourary address, Number 10, Frowning Street. In downtown Evansburg, there is also a grouch bench.
Edmonton AM5:01The town of Evansburg is having a hard time finding its grumpiest resident
Lauer earned his grouch title in 1995.
The grouch is a coal miner who wears bright blue overalls, a helmet with a lamp attached, has crazy, unruly red hair and carries a miner’s pick.
A grouch must live in Evansburg, be nominated, and must agree to the nomination.
After the nominees have been chosen, donation cans pop up around the community and people can vote for their favourite grouch through donations.
Killick said part of the attraction for the grouch is that it portrays a sense of community.
“It’s a popular attraction to get the community together in a positive light and just celebrate who we are and where we come from,” she said.
The new grouch will be announced at the Pembina Valley Daze festival on August long weekend.